Santonio Holmes called his humanitarian trip to Africa a year ago "very intriguing," which hints at why today the Jets wide receiver departed again on a two-week expedition to help supply hearing aids and perform other humanitarian deeds for the people in several African nations during "Pros for Africa 2012."
"It caught me a little by surprise," Holmes told newyorkjets.com this week of the impact that last year's mission had on him. "I was given the opportunity to distribute hearing aids to the deaf in Africa, to those that don't even speak English, and they got an opportunity to hear my voice before they heard any other words in their lives.
He said distributing the hearing aids in conjunction with the Starkey Hearing Foundation based in Minnesota was the primary goal of last year's trip but not the only one.
"We also helped the children out there, dug wells, helped built schools," Holmes said of the journey that touched down in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania. "That was rewarding as well."
Holmes, expected to discuss football matters with reporters after he returns from this year's mission on March 22, was asked what parts of the trip surprised him most.
"It was just the supplies that the people have, or should I say don't have," he said. "It's so crazy, that these people can't even get a pair of shoes to wear throughout the day or decent clothing to put on their backs."
Holmes is making this trip with several other NFL players, among them expected to be RB Adrian Peterson and DT Tommie Harris, with stops scheduled in several countries including Uganda and Tanzania.
He said he anticipates meeting up with some of the adults and children the group assisted last year, including possibly a girl who was fitted with hearing aids that affected him deeply at one stop on the mission.
"She couldn't hear very well, and after she got her hearing aids, she didn't really understand what was going on," he recalled. "Throughout the day she continued to listen to music and tried to learn the words. I was getting on our bus and saw her listening to the music and dancing, and I said, you know what? I'm going to be a part of her enjoying this experience."
Holmes caught another bus, after talking and dancing with the girl in her yard.
"Tone" also mentioned the side benefit of the sightseeing he was able to do last year and will again on this trip — "game drives," seeing silverback gorillas in the wild, and even possibly a balloon ride.
"Because of these trips, I've experienced wanting to help in any way I can, to make a difference in these people's lives," he said, which he explained is why he's starting up a new charitable arm that he's calling "HandsUp10.org."
"I'm going to be giving out clothing to the people in Africa," he said. "This trip is going to be special. I'll get more opportunities to meet and greet with the locals and get to know people that I can stay in contact with when it's time to ship clothing to these areas.
Holmes has a simple "mission statement" for his planned new endeavor.
"I just want to keep people informed," he said, "and keep making a difference in the world that is unknown over here."